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June 29, 2009 - Ray Hall (Archive)
It was thoughtless and unnecessarily careless when the issue of a new power plant for Jamestown became so entangled in personalities that any reasonable dialogue became and remains nigh impossible.   Current discussions are reminiscent of the downtown hotel debacle just a few years ago when we ran two hotel developers out of town because the city and opponents could not agree where to locate the project. 
In the hotel fiasco the city was branded as the “bulldozing villain” who was hell bent on building a hotel right across the street from an existing hotel and on the corner of a busy intersection adjacent to the ice arena. On one side opponents who wanted green space downtown to those who didn’t want a hotel at all couldn’t agree on what day it was so the developers took their millions and returned to Corning. 
In the case of the power plant it is the city, and make no mistake; it is the city council that is the final authority that appears ready to bulldoze a power plant through the opposition. It seems certain that there are those in the city determined to build a plant, any sort of plant, so long as a plant is built regardless of cost or efficiency. It seems as if from the beginning this project has been planned on the run.   What began as an effort to replace a 60 year old boiler became something more complicated.
 Suddenly we had the best thing since sliced bread; a pulverized coal project with a 300 foot high smoke stack that could burn anything from old tires to willow trees to switch grass with a $143 million price tag. Today we have an Oxy Coal plant that will capture and sequester CO2, carbon dioxideand bury itdeep underground withan estimated cost of $500 million which means it could be nearly $1 billion before everything is said and done. 
Now is the time for the city, meaning the BPU, to pull in its horns. Stops this nonsense of trying to bulldoze this project through step by step until a point of no return is reached; a point where so much money has been spent that it is too costly to turn back regardless of the consequences. Stop this business of hiring a lobbyist to develop schemes to stifle the opposition and by designing “scoping” sessions that masquerade as public information meetings.
The city, the BPU should come clean:  Stop meeting behind closed doors. Tell us what was found with test borings near the former city landfill. Tell us if and why the BPU was involved directly or indirectly in test borings for underground carbon sequestration in the Town of Ellery. Tell us if and why the BPU, directly or indirectly, drilled a 7000 feet deep test hole in the Town of Ellery and hit a strong, flowing gas well. For goodness sakes, the people of Jamestown are grown ups, most of us understand that a 60 year old boiler must be replaced.
Now is the time for the opposition to stop branding everyone associated with this project; the Mayor, BPU Board members, the City Council as gypsies, tramps and thieves. These people breathe the same air, drink the same water and want the city to grow and prosper as much as do members of the opposition. Those who serve are professionals, former educators, corporate executives, blue collar workers, people who want their children and grandchildren to breathe clean air and drink clean water as anyone else; these are people that might (or might not) be wrong, but they are not cheats, liars and crooks.
            What has been lost in all of this name calling and nitpicking is one indisputable fact that stands out like a sore thumb, but has become lost in the flurry of insults: From the BPU’s own reports comes this gem: JAMESTOWN DOES NOT HAVE CHEAP POWER BECAUSE WE GENERATE ELECTRICITY. 
            Jamestown has cheap power because we buy 80% of our electricity from Niagara Falls Hydro—hydro being the cheapest electricity produced almost anywhere. According to records furnished the opposition from the BPU, Jamestown only generates about 9% of the electricity we use and purchases the other 11% on the open market.  As these words are written, the BPU power plant is idle; it has not produced a single watt of power for more than two months and will likely be shut down for another month. The BPU is buying our electricity from the open market; this is not unusual, shut downs routinely occur every year. 
That raises a question, a question that even one who does not flinch when readers call me a Socialist; a question central to the issue: WHY SHOULD THE CITY OF JAMESTOWN BE IN THE BUSINESS OF GENERATING ELECTRICITY?
Let us begin the conversation.


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